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Saturday, December 06, 2021

second suck
So the National Hockey League came down on Sean Avery over his questionable comments earlier this week, to the tune of a six-game suspension and mandatory anger-management treatment.

Let’s refresh ourselves on just what Avery said to get into hot water:

“I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada,” Avery said on camera this morning in Calgary. “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about. Enjoy the game tonight.”

The key phrase being “sloppy seconds”, obviously. Because if Avery were to have substituted a more neutral phrase there, like “my exes” or even “my leftovers”, there’s no way he would have been suspended. But “sloppy seconds” clearly connotes the crude, prurient actions upon which that piece of slang is based.

That was definitely the thinking of NHL brass in this whole thing:

“It’s clear that what he said crossed the line,” [Commissioner Gary] Bettman explained to TSN on Friday. “It was inappropriate, it’s not right for our fans to hear something like that and it’s not representative of what our players stand for….”

Again, had Avery been trash-talking by using what’s generally accepted as merely PG-rated wording, the league wouldn’t have stepped in. But because this was interpreted as an NHL player spouting foul language in front of a camera, he got disciplined. Again, the crux of it is the specific choice of “sloppy seconds”.

Not to defend Avery one bit, as it’s been corroborated that he was deliberately being provocative with this stunt. But let me throw this out there: Is the definition of “sloppy seconds” evolving away from its porn-like origin, into something more benign in the mainstream?

After all, in the talking-heads debates that flowed from this, “sloppy seconds” was used pretty freely, on TV and in staid publications. Obviously, it passed the current obscenity litmus tests there, so why should it be such a verboten phrase elsewhere?

I don’t have much to back this up, aside from a brief Urban Dictionary quip:

Alas, this word has now leaked into general usage and people are taking it to mean ‘ill-fitting hand-me-downs’.

To me, this mirrors how the now-inconsequential “suck” was neutralized, long ago:

In the words of the great political scholar and U.S. Senator Patrick Moynihan, “deviance” has “devolved downward.”

In language, this will lead to all kinds of semantic shifts…

“Suck” is one of these words. It has devolved from its oral/sexual meaning — with possible homophobic undercurrents — where it picked up its negative connotations, and has been applied as a harsh predicate to any subject the speaker or writer detests…

Again, this isn’t meant to absolve Avery. But it strikes me that this debate might be one of those things that the younger crowd will roll their eyes over, because they can’t figure out what the big deal is over a phrase that they’re using casually. And in a few years, the phrase will have lost its toxicity altogether. Maybe Avery’s incident represents an acceleration of this specific process.

Ideally, this is a subject for William Safire’s “On Language” column in the New York Times to tackle. But the chances on the Grey Lady’s Sunday Magazine containing an etymological dissection of some penis-and-vagina slang? Far-fetched, I know.

Nevertheless, language evolves. Even in a somewhat sloppy manner.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/06/2021 12:40pm
Category: Hockey, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Some time ago, on a flight to Florida, I sat next to a guy who spent the entire two-and-a-half hours watching a DVD of “The Golden Girls” on his notebook computer. (At least he had earphones plugged in, so as not to offend my ears as well as my eyes.)

Yesterday, on the subway, I was standing above a guy who was watching “Family Guy” on his notebook. I don’t know how long he was riding, but he looked like he was hunkering down to watch an episode or two. (And yes, again, earphones properly inserted, for my sake if nothing else.)

I’m really torn on which of these tasteless idiots I should retroactively despise more…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/06/2021 11:36am
Category: New Yorkin', TV
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